Tree has chunks of dead leaves...

Asked June 13, 2018, 6:36 PM EDT

This tree was here when we moved in - it had been hit by lightning but a tree specialist said it was fine though there is a big gouge taken out of it. I believe it is a Bradford Pear. We have been here for 6 years and have noticed some dead bunches of leaves but this Spring it seems overrun with them. It's hard to tell from the picture of the total tree but there are clusters of dead leaves throughout the whole tree. Can you tell us what is going on and how we can save our tree?

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

Yes, this looks like a Bradford Pear tree and it has symptoms of fire blight, a bacterial disease. Our wet weather this spring has been very favorable for this disease to develop in pear and apple trees. See our website for photos, information, and management options.

The recommended procedure is to prune out the dead tips now, then prune each infected branch again lower down when it is dormant in the winter:
Obviously, that's not going to work if there is an extensive infection throughout the canopy.

Bradford pears (and all the ornamental Callery pear trees) are very problematic trees. Usually, the problem is that the branch structure is weak, and when it gets a nice mature size the branches start breaking off. It is also a foreign invasive tree, which has spread by the hundreds of thousands into parks and wild areas of Maryland. We don't recommend it anymore.